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How You Say “Glass Ceiling”
December 21, 2010 - By: - In: Language - Comments Off on How You Say “Glass Ceiling”

There are no secrets on the Web, gentle reader. TranslationGuy knows who you are. Google told us. You are super smart, super educated, multilingual, and, chances are, you are a lovely woman, of a certain age (just how old I’m not saying). And this post is for you.

Attention all dudes reading this blog: Glad to have you, thanks for stopping by, great to see you again, sorry you can’t stay longer, but this particular post is just for us girls.

Ladies: Experiencing career frustration? Don’t think you are getting the recognition you deserve in the office? Do you find that your reports (the peons who work on your behalf) don’t report with the alacrity and deference you deserve? Have you found that your climb to the top of the corporate ladder is somehow hung on every rung?

Of course you do. But how can you be losing out to all those ill-shaved slobs in their pizza-stained wife-beaters, slack-jawed in front of the Xbox playing Call of Duty Black Ops while you sit at the kitchen table studying all those management texts by the light of a single camera.

Is it because of the vast patriarchal conspiracy that even Hillary refuses to call out? That old-boy, mulligan-tossing network of drunks patting each other on the back after every hole? Maybe so, but on this blog, as you know, it always comes down to language, and this time we have science on our side.

Linguist Judith Baxter of Aston University thinks the glass ceiling is caused by girl talk, or rather the extra high bar women face in talking boy talk.  Baxter and her team listened in on high-powered executive types talking in their high-powered executive type meetings and analyzed their speech patterns.

“We found that senior women have to demonstrate more linguistic expertise than men to achieve the same level of recognition, impact, and support of their colleagues―because leadership is still largely seen as a male preserve.  Linguistic expertise means taking a judgement call on how and when to use specific features of politeness, humour, persuasion and direct language to make the right impact on others. Previous research… has shown that leadership is seen as a masculine construct: women leaders are the exception to the norm of male leadership. Our research has found that senior women have to work much harder than men to create the same linguistic impact on their colleagues.

“‘Linguistic expertise’ does not mean a female style of leadership language that only women use. Men and women’s language is really quite similar. One key feature of linguistic expertise is ‘double-voiced discourse‘―that is, a type of linguistic ‘second guessing’. This means that women constantly have to adjust their language to take account of the agendas of their colleagues. In male-dominated settings, linguistic expertise can be a survival strategy to help senior women avoid the non-compliance or criticism of male colleagues.”

But there is hope. Baxter believes that both men and women aiming for alpha-dominance and the big pay checks that go with it can accelerate their careers by practicing the unique patterns of speech of the big cheeses.

There’s more, but I think we’d better call the boys back in now before they set something on fire with their cigars. And here is an interesting example of Fiorina speaking what I read as leader-speak.

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